By Sara Adams, 350 Madison



In November 2018, Wisconsinites will vote for a governor. This post is the fifth in a series on the environmental views of the candidates. This series is for information only. 350 Madison does not officially support any candidate.


Mike McCabe is the former Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a non-partisan watchdog group that tracks money in politics. He is also the founder of Blue Jeans Nation, a group that describes itself as, “Commoners working to house the politically homeless and transform parties that are failing America.”


What are the most important issues that you would take on if you were elected governor?


“It’s about making our government work for regular people, and not just the wealthy few at the very top. It’s about opening up our government to the voices of regular citizens and that means dealing with the influence of big money in politics and creating conditions where the public interest can be served. Beyond that, for me, the environment is very high on the list. One of the things I say everywhere I go is that it should be Wisconsin’s goal to be the first state in the nation fully powered by renewable energy.”


McCabe also said, “I also obviously want Wisconsin to deal with economic inequality, and the fact that so far in the 21st century no state in America has seen its middle class shrink more than Wisconsin.”


How would you rate environmental issues on your priority list?


For McCabe, environmental issues are a priority.


He says, “It’s right up there at the top. For me it goes hand in hand with the need to create opportunities for debt-free education, high-speed internet everywhere in our state, and healthcare for all.” McCabe again stressed that Wisconsin should aim to be the first state in the nation fully powered by renewable energy.


Within the broad topic of the environment, what do you think are the most important issues?


“I think first and foremost is both restoring independence to the Department of Natural Resources, but also restoring science to the Department of Natural Resources. As you know, the top leadership of the DNR scrubbed any mention of climate change from the agency’s website. I would make sure climate change is again recognized. The fact that any mention of it has been scrubbed from the DNR’s website is shameful. I obviously would correct that mistake.”


McCabe said he advocates for an independent DNR, where the secretary of the DNR is appointed by the national resources board, and not the governor, in order to insulate the position from political meddling.


McCabe also said government should incentivize small-scale sustainable agriculture, instead of what he views as the massive-scale industrialization of agriculture. He also said government should be on the side of the energy revolution, and not erecting roadblocks to renewable energy.


If you were elected governor, what would you do to address climate change, and how soon would you do it?


In addition to reforming the DNR, McCabe says his first budget as governor of Wisconsin would set a new tone prioritizing climate change. He said, “In the first budget I would offer increases in funding for programs like Focus on Energy, and new initiatives to seek the development of renewable energy in our state.”


In Wisconsin, political candidates often don’t talk a whole lot about climate change. Why do you think that is?


McCabe said younger generations are more in tune with climate change concerns than some members of older generations.


“When I talk to young people, renewable energy comes up immediately. For a lot of young people, they feel like older folks don’t take climate change as seriously as they should, because they really feel like the older people won’t live to experience the full force of climate change.”


McCabe also said there’s a vacuum of leadership with respect to climate change.


“The Republican Party currently controls our state government and also controls Capitol Hill in Washington and has been openly hostile to acknowledging and openly working on the issue of climate change,” he said. “And the Democrats haven’t exactly made climate change a priority issue of their own. There’s been a leadership vacuum and that has to change. It’s where people running for governor, people who are running for any office around the country need to bring this up, they need to engage people in conversations about climate change and environmental concerns.”


Do you know what Line 61 is?


“I sure do!” McCabe is fully aware of the Enbridge pipeline, and stressed his history of work with local groups fighting the Enbridge pipeline. He’s also worked extensively with groups fighting high-voltage transmission lines and sand mining.


Anything else you want members of 350 Madison to know?


McCabe said he hopes his record makes it clear that “there’s really a long-time association between me and groups in the environmental community,” he said. “This is not something that I’m just concerned about now. It’s something that I’ve been working on a very long time.”


Read the rest of the interviews.